Irritations. Annoyances. Tolerations. If you aren’t dealing with them, they are draining energy from you. Some of them are within your control, some are not. Select an appropriate tool or practice to deal with both types. Eliminate as many annoyances as you can and find a way to accept and move past those you can’t eliminate.
Learning a New Way to Drive to Work
Many years ago, I worked in downtown Greenville but I lived in a nearby suburban town which meant I had to drive 15 miles or so on the freeway (aka I-385) every morning. Although I was a pretty laid-back guy, dealing with the traffic and other drivers – especially the ones that insisted on doing the speed limit in the left lane!! — had me fuming and raging by the time I reached my parking space. Morning after morning after morning.
Eventually, I realized that I certainly was not improving my health, my outlook, or my interactions with others by starting the day off at a rolling boil. I began taking steps to improve my drive to work.
I began by changing my attitude and realizing this wasn’t a race to see who could get there first. And I started leaving 15 minutes earlier so I didn’t have to speed to get to work on time. Instead of following up close to the car ahead of me to prevent another car from merging, I began backing off and waving other drivers in ahead of me. I also changed my tailgating ways and begin allowing a couple of car lengths between my car and the car in front of me. As if by magic, those so-called irritations evaporated. I arrived at work in a great mood, relaxed, and ready to face the day.
What Do We Mean By Irritations?
Irritations are things you are tolerating; the annoyances and problems you are putting up with or putting off. They are those issues you are ignoring, hoping they will go away. They can be small things: a missing button, never having a pen when you need one, a messy bathroom. Or they can be bigger: a “friend” that constantly cuts you down, a car that needs major mechanical work, the lack of an emergency fund.
What pesky annoyances are you putting up with right now? Think about things, people, situations, and environments. Here are some examples:
- Not having a pair of scissors where you need them
- Needing to forgive a friend
- Biting my fingernails
- Clothing that is torn, stained, or ill-fitting
- An appliance that doesn’t work
- A car that needs mechanical work
- A car that needs cleaning
- Not being able to find important papers because your files are unorganized
- Having to store my bike in your apartment
- Health issues that need to be dealt with
- A refrigerator that doesn’t keep things cold enough
- Not enough money
- Not enough time
- A door that sticks and doesn’t open and close properly
- A lock that doesn’t work
- Always being late for appointments
- A friend that doesn’t respect your boundaries
Irritations take many forms and you deal with them in different ways, as we’ll discuss in a moment. But the benefits of removing any of them are similar. When you eliminate an irritation, you plug a drain on your energy.
If You’re Feeling Irritable – This Is Not An External Irritation
Of course, your feelings of irritation could be coming from an internal source. You can’t fix these by dealing with external issues. If you’re feeling unusually irritable or you can’t put your finger on a specific irritation, try some of these suggestions to feel less irritable from Kristi Schwegman, LCSW. [Schwegman]
Gain perspective. Step back and take the long view. Will this even matter in a hundred years? Of course not. How about next year? Doubt it. Next month? Perhaps, but probably not.
Express gratitude. This is another way to change your perspective. Instead of dwelling on the things that are causing you irritation, stop and be thankful. Why not be thankful for the thing that is irritating you? Look for a seed of good in the situation.
Get moving. This is a great mood booster. Move your body and release those endorphins, “nature’s happy drug”.
Eat something. If you’re hungry or if you haven’t had proper nutrition, this could be the drag on your mood. Go grab a healthy snack.
Laugh. Read a joke, watch a funny movie, or simply think of a funny memory. You can’t laugh and be a grump at the same time, says Schwegman.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine revs you up and alcohol drops you down. Even out those highs and lows to stabilize your feelings.
Go to bed or take a nap. Sleep is foundational to good self-care. If you aren’t getting enough, you probably aren’t feeling your best and it’s difficult to regulate your mood. Take a 20-minute nap; use a timer so you don’t sleep too long and feel even worse. And begin taking the steps you need to ensure you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
Stop complaining. Ruminating over the same issue, dredging up ill feelings, only makes you feel worse. You may need to vent and blow off steam. Find a trusted friend you can open up to. But then stop. Once you’ve gotten it off your chest, move on.
Have some alone time. Sometimes, you just need peace and quiet. Schwegman suggests you “find a cozy spot, breathe, disconnect, listen to music, take a bubble bath, journal, meditate . . .” Do whatever you need to do, “just do it by yourself.”
Step away from your phone. You cannot fully interact with a friend or loved one, nor can you properly decompress, if you are staring at your phone or scrolling through social media. Take a break from technology and find some human interaction. Or try one of the “alone time” activities.
Why Eliminate Irritations?
Once you’ve dealt with the internal irritability, you likely have some external irritations you are putting up with. Small frustrations build up over time, so subtly that you can’t always pinpoint the reasons you feel stuck or aimless or lacking in energy. Whenever you feel your energy being drained away, look around you. Are there things, situations, feelings, or people you’ve been tolerating and that you need to deal with? When you address these frustrations, you free up mental, emotional, and physical energy which you can use for those things that are important and meaningful to you.
When you run up against an irritation, it interrupts your forward flow and results in a “thought detour”. [Cristol] Thought detours sound like this: “I should . . .” “I ought to . . .” “Someday, I’ll . . .”
For example, several months ago our bathtub had a leaky faucet. It wasn’t a steady leak, but from time to time, I’d notice it dripping and I’d tighten the handle. I knew it needed to have the washers replaced, but there was no easy way to turn off the water. I would have to turn it off for the entire house. Then the water would need to remain shut off while I removed the old washers and drove out to the hardware store and back. It just seemed to my mind a great big ol’ hassle. But I could feel a tightening in my gut every time I saw that drip, drip, drip.
I finally decided this was an irritation that I needed to deal with. So on a Saturday morning, I turned off the water to the house. It wasn’t that hard really – just shut off a valve in the garage. I removed the faucet handles and took out the old washers. I drove out to the hardware store a couple of miles from our house and found replacements. Then I came back, installed the new washers, replaced the handles, and turned on the water. Leak fixed. Problem resolved. Irritation handled. I had been tolerating this small annoyance for weeks and it took less than an hour to resolve. It may sound dramatic, but I felt my body relax just a little bit to realize I wouldn’t have to think about this anymore.
What To Do
We’ve looked at ways to address internal irritability, but what if the irritations are external? Here are some things to try. Let’s look at some ideas to help you deal with, and hopefully eliminate, irritations: act on them, improve them, use a different approach, let it go.
Act on them. Sometimes, we become so accustomed to something we’ve been putting up with that we forget we can fix it. Sew on the button. Repair the leaky faucet. Toss out the broken toaster. And if you can’t – or don’t want to – fix it yourself, hire someone to do it.
Improve them. You may face some situations, relationships, and environments that you cannot “fix” right away and that you can’t completely let go of. Is there a way you can improve it to make it easier to accept? Can you lessen your exposure? Change the way you think about it? Get someone’s help with it?
Take a different approach. Get on with replacing a missing button, cleaning a disorganized house or garage, replacing scratched sunglasses, washing a dirty car, having car repairs done, etc. But if you have an issue worthy of writing Dear Abby — a friend with whom you’re no longer compatible, a mother-in-law that constantly finds fault, or a spouse who remains upset over something that happened 20 years ago — your methods of dealing with these tolerations may be different. These are things that are out of your direct control. However, you can remove yourself from the situation or, at the least, change how you think and respond to them.
Let it go. Are you tolerating some things that you could let go of? Your grandmother’s silver tea service that needs polishing and which you will never ever use? Those books you’re never going to get around to reading? “Friends” that constantly criticize you and others? Let them go.
Count the costs of what you are tolerating – the hard costs (money, time, energy) and the soft costs (space, opportunity, peace of mind). What can you save or gain by dealing with this thing once and for all? Fix what you can and let go of the annoyances you have no control over.
Can We Eliminate All Irritations?
Irritations, annoyances, tolerations – whatever you call them — come in two flavors: the things you can fix and the situations, people, and so forth that are not under your immediate power to fix. Remember, there are things within our control and things that are not in our control. Although there are many things you can’t control, there is one thing that is always under your direct control. You.
So, pick your battles wisely. Suppose you are running late for an appointment and encounter a road-paving crew that has half the road blocked. You have to stop for the flag person and wait till the drivers coming from the other direction clear out. Before you get really upset, be sure there is something to be upset about.
How much control do you have over this mess? Absolutely none. What are the reasons for being impatient, annoyed, even angry? Absolutely none. What can you exert control over here? Yourself. There are things that happen to you that you cannot control, so pick your battles wisely. At least be sure there’s actually a battle to fight. Let go of the petty annoyances you can do nothing about.
Some of the things we are tolerating may not be within our control to fix or eliminate. Knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can’t may be useful when you are dealing with irritations. In order to effectively deal with them, we must recognize each type. Differentiating between what we can and cannot control gives us a different perspective.
When You Can’t Fix It
When you are stuck in traffic, or it rains on the day you have plans for an outdoor activity, or your favorite show is preempted by some other program, well, there’s little you can do about these. These you just accept and move on.
While we can control our thoughts and our actions, the things not under our direct control are basically everything else including other people and even our own bodies.
These are not in our control:
- rude or incompetent drivers
- stuff that happens in the daily news
- other people
And, while irritating, these are not necessarily tolerations. In the last analysis, tolerations, as we understand them, are the things you can deal with, so deal with them. The rest you must learn to accept and let go of.
Put Ideas Into Action
We’ve covered these before, but here are the basic steps for practicing Excelerated Response™ – dealing with tolerations.
- Take a sheet of paper and list everything you have hanging over you, all those things you look at and think, “I need to fix that.” Get them out of your head and on paper. Or when you catch yourself thinking “I should . . .” or “I ought to . . .”, stop and add those to the list.
- Set aside a Saturday or Sunday and knock out as many of the items on your list as you can complete. Or schedule a certain time period each day to do one or two until the list is done.
- Some things will be too big to do in one day. Break them down into discrete actions and work these into your schedule.
- You may have things on your list that you don’t know how to address. (First, be sure it is something you can control. If not, practice acceptance.) If it is under your control, don’t worry about it right now. Deal with the things you can. Clear them from your mind. Solutions for the other things will come to you.
- Eliminate the toleration 110%. The extra 10% is to locate and deal with the source of the annoyance. “Otherwise, you’ll be swatting down the same tolerations over and over. That’s not progress.” [Leonard]
- After you’ve marked everything off your list, reward yourself. Go out to dinner or to a movie or any other small treat you enjoy.
Take an Excelerated Response™ to Irritations
Irritations. Annoyances. Tolerations. Whatever you call them, if you aren’t dealing with them they are draining energy from you. Some of these irritations are within your control and your ability to correct – fix them. Some are not under your direct control. Select an appropriate tool or practice to deal with those as well. Change your perspective. Change what you can. Let it go. Accept it and move on. The goal is to eliminate as many annoyances as you can and to find a way to accept and move past those you can’t eliminate.
Each of us will have different responses to various irritations. Make sure yours is an Excelerated Response™. For that’s how you embrace your Excelerated Life™!
Think of one pesky irritation you have been tolerating.
How could you fix it today?
Share your ideas by leaving a post below.
Excelerated Response™ – dealing with the things you’ve been tolerating – is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Cristol, Rebecca Reimers. “Boost your Energy by Zapping 10 Irritations.” Health Journal. Health Journal, August 2, 2017. Web. March 28, 2022.
Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998.
Schwegman, LCSW, Kristi. “Feeling Irritable? 15 Ways to Feel Less Irritable.” Holistic Wellness Practice. Holistic Wellness Practice, LLC., Feb 1, 2021 Web. March 28, 2022.